The Record Breaker: Porsche 919 EVO Tribute Tour
The Porsche 919 LMP stormed onto the World Endurance Championship tracks in 2014 after two years of developing the complicated hybrid-drive system. Porsche’s traditional flat-6 turbos were replaced with a V4 2.0 turbo pumping out 500hp to the rear axle, coupled with an advanced hybrid system on the front axle, good for all-wheel drive and another 400hp. As impressive as the cars were, teething problems appeared in that first season and Porsche’s expectations of immediate success were not realized. Audi took LeMans, and Porsche managed only one win at the end of the season in Brazil.
The factory completely revised the 919 for 2015. The almost all-new 919 became the dominant car in LMP, decisively capturing the glory at LeMans, along with claiming multiple victories and the Championship with ease. The 919 continued Porsche’s victorious ways, winning LeMans and both the driver’s and manufacturer’s WEC championships again in 2016 and 2017. As they had done so many times in the past, Porsche both demonstrated their competitive supremacy and elevated vehicle design, engineering and technology to a new level. After dominating WEC for three straight years, Porsche announced that they would retire the 919 and focus their considerable racing organization on the Formula E Championship for 2019.
A Crazy Idea
Usually, when Porsche wins everything that they set out to win, they step away for a few years and let Audi or Toyota or whoever else step into the ring to have their chance at top spot on the podium. Maybe the cold German winter drove them a little stir crazy, or maybe someone put something in their sauerkraut, but this year Team Porsche decided to do something different. The engineers and the race team knew that the 919 Hybrid had much more potential than the official FIA regulations allowed. It would be a shame to just retire the cars into the factory museum without fully exploring the capabilities of the car they had worked so hard to perfect.
The idea for a 2018 919 Tribute Tour began to take form, and a decision was made that this had to be more than a series of celebratory parade laps. The engineers were given a standard 919 from the 2017 championship and told to maximize its already unbelievable performance. As a factory demonstrator, the car would be free of series rules and restrictions—in essence, the world’s fastest track day car.
Modifications to the Max
Now called the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo, Porsche decided to try to shatter fastest lap records with it at select classic race circuits. Up front, the hybrid drive recovery system was increased from the restricted 6.37 megajoules to a full boost of 8.49 megajoules, raising power to the front axle to 440hp. In the rear, the V4 Turbo was tweaked with new software and increased fuel flow, raising combustion power from 500hp to 720hp. Aerodynamics were revised with a longer flat black nose with a larger front diffuser replacing the familiar giant-headlight cropped front end, and a large rear wing was added.
Actively-controlled drag reduction systems linked the front and rear aero. The hydraulically-operated systems trim the trailing edge of the front diffuser and open up the slot between the rear wing main plane and the flap to increase aerodynamic efficiency. Headlights and other non-essential systems for endurance racing were deleted. The undertray was also optimized. Altogether, the aero modifications paid off in a 66-percent increase in efficiency. The 919 Hybrid Evo now generates more downforce than a Formula One car.
The Record Breaking Tour Begins
The Team Porsche transporters rolled into the Spa-Francochamps circuit for a private session in early April to officially kick off the 919 Hybrid Evo Tribute Tour. After some unbelievably fast practice laps that were visibly faster than anything on the track at the last WEC race, factory driver Neel Jani blasted a 1:41:770 lap to break Lewis Hamilton’s F1 record by 0.783 seconds. The Porsche 919 was not only faster than the top Formula One car, but nearly 12 seconds faster than Porsche’s 2017 WEC pole position time. Videos show the unrestricted 919 attacking corners at astonishing speeds.
New Spa lap record holder Neel Jani said, “The 919 Evo is brutally impressive. It is definitely the fastest car I ever drove. The grip level is at a fully new dimension for me, I couldn’t imagine this amount beforehand. The speed on which everything happens on a single lap with the 919 Evo is that fast that the demand on reaction speed is very different to what I was used to in the WEC. We are not only faster than the F1 pole from 2017. Today’s lap was twelve seconds faster compared to our WEC pole position from last year!”
The lap record at Spa generated huge media coverage, and the announcement that the 919 Evo would also make appearances at Brands Hatch, Laguna Seca and especially the Nürburgring launched speculation that Porsche would attempt to continue smashing lap-records. The next stop for the 919 Hybrid Evo was the 24 Hours Nürburgring in May. The official story was that Porsche would only complete a parade lap behind a pace car before the race. Almost as a tease, they sent along a Porsche 956, the car that Stefan Bellof used to set the outright Nürburgring record way back in 1983. Most of the crowd held their breath and waited for the 919 to peel away from the pace car, but in the end the two champion prototypes were only there for a lap of honor. Bellof’s 35-year-old record still stands—at least for now.
Will More Records Fall?
Porsche is keeping their exact record-breaking plans to themselves. Specific atmospheric conditions must be present for maximum performance and fastest lap times. Porsche has the weapon at their disposal and has already proven that they will use it. The records at Brands Hatch and Laguna Seca may not last the year, because the 919 Evo is coming. The Nürburgring has always been the hardest and most unforgiving challenge in F1 and Endurance racing, which is why every manufacturer feels the need to take it on. Porsche has built the greatest track day car ever conceived, and it wasn’t created to parade behind pace cars.
The 919 Tribute Tour is next scheduled to appear at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (July 12-15) and then the Festival of Porsche at Brands Hatch (Sept. 12). The car will then cross the Atlantic for the Porsche Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca (Sept. 26-29). Where and when they choose to unleash the car next at its full potential remains to be seen, but interest in the car is fueling feverish speculation and rumors. However it all plays out, Porsche deserves a cold stein of pilsner and an extra schnitzel for having the swagger to throw the rulebook into the trash and build the car that everyone who loves speed and technology has always hoped would happen.
All photos courtesy of Porsche AG